December 22, 2011

A Bowler's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

How are you doing? I hope Mrs. Claus has been nice enough to let you join a bowling league this year even though I'm sure you are busy.

I have been very good this year.  I haven't bowled a single series under 500 and almost half of my games have been in the 200s.  When things aren't going very well, I try not to get visibly upset or take my frustrations out on the ball return.  I don't even yell at splits or flip off solid leaves anymore.

This year for Christmas, I don't need a new ball, bag, shoes or any other piece of equipment or accessories. Here is a list of things I would like for Christmas:

First, I would really like some more confidence.  I have been bowling for 14 years now, but for some reason I still question myself on the lanes when making an adjustment or reading the oil pattern.  I'd really like to be able to just go with my gut and take my shot because nine times out of ten my first impression is the correct one.

I would also like consistency.  I've been getting better about this, but it seems that I always miss my mark at the worst possible moment.  I seem to be the most consistent when I am doing something wrong, particularly when it comes to spares.  So if you have any extra in that bag of yours, now you know you can give it to someone who will appreciate it.

Lastly, if at all possible, I would really like it if you could create a Sport League here in the Pittsburgh area.  I read all these wonderful things about how a season of bowling on professional oil patterns does wonders for your average once you return to house leagues, but I can't seem to find one around here.  I think I'm ready for the challenge, Santa, so if it is possible to have one, I promise I will go, learn and have fun.

Now I know that there are many other bowlers who are less fortunate than me.  Some are using balls that are way past their prime, while others are still renting shoes or have never thrown a 200 game.  I hope you can give those bowlers what they want for Christmas, too, but I hope you give my suggestions some consideration.

Thanks Santa.  As always, I will be grateful for whatever you decide to bring me this year.


Zach from Bowling in the Burgh

December 20, 2011

Week 17 Pre-Bowl Recap

Game 1: 183
Game 2: 208
Game 3: 195
Series: 586
Week Avg: 195
Season Avg: 192


It was a real adventure getting to pre-bowl this week. I showed up at my usual time on Sunday, only to be turned away and told that they never let people pre-bowl for leagues on Sunday afternoons (a surprise to me since I have done this at least a handful of times over the last two seasons). He did say that I could come before 5PM or after 9PM during the week. I called Monday afternoon after work to see if they had a lane available for me to start around 4:30, but I was again declined as expected. When I asked if I could come before 5 on Wednesday, they told me no because high school matches are that afternoon. So my only option was to go bowl last night after 9PM.

I wasn't too sure how the lane conditions would be, but to my surprise it looked like these lanes were never bowled on after being oiled. The conditions were very similar to Thursday nights so I knew exactly how to approach my games, with the exception that the oil would not break down in the last game.

The first game started with a spare and a strike before leaving the 5-10 split and chopping the 5-pin. There wasn't as much room for error when hitting my mark and I would struggle with that all night. I picked up a spare in the fourth frame and then threw a double. I spared two more times and struck in the ninth before leaving the 4-7-9 split after a light hit. I picked up two and finished with a 183 game.

The next game started with a double and a spare. I left another split, the 2-5-7, but couldn't kick out the 7-pin. I shook it off to throw a four bagger before leaving yet another split, this time my first of two 3-10s, opening in the ninth frame. I spared in the tenth and finished the game with a 208.

The third game started with a strike followed by my second 3-10 split and once again I chopped the 3-pin. I doubled, spared, and struck again before sparing in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames. I struck and spared in the tenth to finish with a 195 game and a 586 series.

Lesson Learned

Last night I battled fatigue more than anything, as I'm not used to bowling so late in the evening. I was throwing the ball a bit slower and it took some time to compensate for that. Luckily, because I was throwing a bit slower, if I missed my mark to the left it would hook across the headpin resulting in about three Brooklyn strikes; however, if I missed right the ball would hang out by the gutter. Another problem I had to contend with was drifting on the right lane. During my approach I was walking toward the right gutter instead of straight to the foul line. As a result I was hitting my mark at a poor angle and missing the pocket to the left. I managed to fix that issue in the second half of the second game just by concentrating on my body position during my approach.

On a positive note, my only opens last night were splits; however, four of the five were small and should have been picked up. I was 4 for 4 shooting the 10-pin and 47% of my first balls were strikes. It was my first pretty average night in a while, I am usually either really above or below my average.  Considering the circumstances, I think I am alright with that and I look forward to getting back to action on the 29th. Average is nothing to be upset about, its an accurate representation of your skill level (I'll keep telling myself that).

December 16, 2011

Week 16 Recap

Game 1: 202
Game 2: 183
Game 3: 233
Series: 618
Week Avg: 206
Season Avg: 192

Note: Week 17's recap will be posted early next week as I will be pre-bowling those games on Sunday. 

The Set Up

This was a big week for a few reasons. The first was that we were supposed to vote on whether or not to change the league mid-season from 100% to 80% handicap. Every team selected captains to vote on the issue, but not one word of the vote was mentioned all night. Apparently the decision to change league format mid-season had to be unanimous, and since there were several of us who were adamantly opposed it was decided to scrap the vote altogether. I say kudos to the league officer(s) that decided this was the best course of action, to avoid face-to-face conflict when it really would have been unnecessary.

In other news, this was the end of the second quarter and my team was sitting in second place one point behind the leader and one point ahead of the third place team. We bowled against the first place team head to head, and the third place team bowled to the right of us, which was appropriate since we were really bowling against both teams. On the line was a spot in the end of the year playoffs, as well as over $100 in prize money for winning a quarter.


Practice was a little rough and I only threw four balls, so I really didn't have much of a chance to fine tune my line. I managed to find the pocket on my last shot, but if I missed my mark right or left the ball was going to hang out by the gutter or come in very high respectively.

The first game started with a double and then a few nine count spares. I missed a 10-pin with my Python and made the decision to stick with the plastic for that shot the rest of the night (I would go 3 for 3 in 10-pins with the plastic). Toward the end of the first game I started to come in a little high, leaving a lot of 6-pins. I moved left a board and found the pocket again. Stringing a few strikes together at the end of the game I threw a 202. My team won the first game, earning two points and jumping ahead of the first place team by a point. The third place team also earned two points for a win and an extra point for winning by 100 or more pins. We were now tied going into the second game. Because there wasn't enough pressure already, I was also playing brackets. I gave 14 pins to my first opponent and defeated him to get to the second round.

The second game was all about spare shooting and luckily I have greatly improved on that front. Every hit was in the pocket, but most hits were high and I shot a lot of 6- and 10-pins again. I missed one 6-pin this game, my only open for the game and my second and last for the night. I finally moved up a half step on the approach and the ball found the sweet spot in the pocket. The game was close and coming down to the tenth frame my team was ahead by a few pins. Both myself and the other team's anchor, the best bowler in the league by about 15 pins, had struck in the ninth. He struck the first ball in the tenth and then left the 10-pin. I left the dreaded 2-8 double wood and wasn't extremely confident that I was going to pick it up. Luckily I threw a perfect shot and picked up the spare. I struck the last ball, preserving my team's few pin lead and a win. The other team also won their game, so we were tied heading into game three. I also defeated my bracket opponent, so I was in the finals there as well. My bracket opponent in the final round also happened to be bowling for the team we were battling with to win the quarter.

The third game started with a double and a few nine count spares. I was still coming in high, but luckily I had developed a plan for the third game since this had been an issue the last several weeks. I moved my mark a few inches further out on the lane so the ball would travel a little bit further before snapping into the pocket. I still came in a little high, so I moved my mark one more time, this time a board to the right. Eureka! I threw a four bagger into the tenth frame and then missed my mark left on my last ball to leave the 5-9. I shot a clean 233 game and 618 series, my second over average performance in a row. I easily defeated my bracket opponent who, after going blow for blow for the first five frames, fell apart in the second half of the game. My team won the game (two points) by over 100 pins (another point) and took the series for the night (one more point). Our opponents on the next lane over lost their final game and we won the quarter.

Lesson Learned

Nights like this are why I bowl. It was fun, it was competitive, it was challenging. I always have a great time bowling against Bruce because he is a great bowler with a 212 average. Bowling against him makes me a better bowler because I love the challenge of trying to keep up.  Add to that the fact that we were competing for first place and I was fighting to win the brackets and it made it all that much better. I am very excited about bowling right now, which is good because I have to pre-bowl for next week since we are traveling next Thursday for the holidays.

My big issue tonight was not hitting my mark. This was a problem the majority of the second game before I really made an effort to correct it. I was missing my mark left, which is why I was coming in so high and no adjustments on the approach were working. To correct the issue, I held the ball further right of my body at the beginning of my approach. This gave me a smoother swing since I wasn't trying to maneuver the ball around my body during the throw. Once I corrected my release, I read the lanes well enough to get back on track and throw a great third game. I just need to be more aware of the cause of my problems so I can try to correct them instead of adjusting my game to compensate for it.

Second Quarter Season Review

At the end of the first quarter my average was 189. At the halfway point in the season I am now at a 192. This is a pretty good improvement and a trend I hope to continue into the rest of the year.

Once again the corner pins and missed single pin spares were the story of this quarter. I made the switch to my plastic ball for the corner pins last week and threw four practice games shooting nothing but spares, and so far it really seems to be paying off.

I threw ten 200 games this quarter, about 42% of the games, but week eleven saw my 200-a-week streak end. My low series was a 537 and four out of my five 600 series came in this quarter. Overall, I averaged 196 for the quarter and that is really where I would like to finish for my season average.

December 9, 2011

Week 15 Recap

Game 1: 235
Game 2: 174
Game 3: 194
Series: 603
Week Avg: 201
Season Avg: 191


I started practice with three strikes, so right away I was pessimistic of how my night would go because that is usually a bad omen for me. The lanes were pretty similar to last week, so I knew exactly where I needed to be and that I had to get the ball to move a couple boards right after hitting my mark at the second arrow to get a good pocket shot.

I came in high my first ball and left the 7-pn, which I barely missed to the left. I used the Python instead of the plastic since I had a better percentage with that on Sunday, but I quickly realized that the lanes were a bit too dry for that to work last night. I spared in the second and third frame before firing off a four bagger. I was feeling pretty comfortable and picked up a couple more single pin spares before striking out to finish with a 235. It was a great start and the game made it worth turning down those free Steelers tickets.

The second game started with me missing my mark and, subsequently, the 10-pin using my plastic. I struggled to find a good line to the pocket, but was pretty consistent in picking up my single pin spares. I chopped a 2-4-8 leave for my second open in the game, but struck in the fourth and seventh frames and then filled the tenth to salvage a 174.

The last game started with a turkey and I managed to find a good line for the time being, but the lanes were beginning to change rapidly. The ball started to hook pretty hard in the backend and I left three splits: 3-9-10, 7-9 and in the tenth frame the 4-7-9. When the ball didn't come in high, it was a strike. Luckily I strung enough together to get over average with a 194. I shot a 603 for the night, but after that first game it felt disappointing.

Lesson Learned

I was much more confident in my spare shooting, even though I missed a 7-pin and was 1 for 2 on 10-pins. Every other open was a split or a chopped double wood. I think that Sunday's practice did more for my confidence than it did for changing or refining technique, but sometimes all you need is more confidence.

Last night was an emphasis on memory and recognizing situations I have seen before. The lanes showed similar characteristics to the end of last week and I made the adjustment left in anticipation of the ball hooking more. It paid off with some great pocket hits, but I still need to be better about adjusting late in the third game. Lately it seems that during the last game the lanes break down much faster than during the first two. As a result, the ball is hooking more and coming in high. I think next week, I will move my mark further out on the lane during the third game and see how my ball reacts. Another observation for the memory bank.

Next week is a big one. Its the end of the quarter and four teams, including mine, are fighting for first place and a spot in the end of the year playoffs, not to mention the first place payout. Also, there has been an issue in our league that we are to vote on. I bowl in a Mixed 100% handicap league, but as usual in these types of leagues, there is always one team that is much better than the rest and usually one team that is worse than the rest. Someone suggested that the worst team has an advantage over the better teams because they are given a significant handicap when bowling head to head. As a result, the worst team takes more points and places higher each quarter. While no team can win a quarter more than once in terms of qualifying for the playoffs, a team can win multiple quarters in terms of place money. So this is really more an issue of every team having an equal shot at prize money. The subject of voting next week is to decide whether the league should change to 80% handicap, which would not give the worse teams such a significant advantage.  I was chosen to be the voting member of my team and we are all in agreement that we are opposed to this change, mainly because it is the middle of the season.  While there is no rule against making such a change mid-season, this is not a competitive league for the most part and everyone did not sign up for an 80% handicap league.

What are your thoughts on this scenario?

December 8, 2011

Preface to Week 15

I declined a last minute offer to attend the Steelers/Browns game tonight so that I could go bowling (and not freeze my butt off).

This better be one hell of a night or I'm going to regret that decision for a while.

December 5, 2011

Resin vs. Plastic: A Corner Pin Case Study

I finally found some time to go out and practice my spare shooting, more specifically the corner pins. I decided to dust off my old Brunswick Zone plastic ball and try that out as many of my single pin misses on Thursday were the result of the ball hooking left of the pin. Since this outing was strictly to work on my corner pin shots, I didn't bother to look at the scores.

For reference, I shot at the 7- and 10-pins with both balls so I could have a control group (Python) and a variable group (Zone). I know, this is way too much like science, but it was the best way I could think of to evaluate the pros and cons of using each ball. Using my Python as I have in league play, I was 9 for 10, or 90%, shooting both the 7- and 10-pin. These are much better numbers than what I have been putting up during the league. Using the Zone, I was 9 for 11, or 82%, shooting the 10-pin and 8 for 12, or 67%, shooting the 7-pin. I also went 2 for 2 shooting the 4-pin and missed an 8-pin using the Zone.

So looking at the above data, it appears that I am more consistent and reliable using the Python; however, there are a few differences between this practice session and league play. One is that I am just not used to throwing the plastic ball. It fit better than I remembered and I was able to get a good release, but my instincts on adjustments were not where they are with the Python. Also, there was more oil on the lanes than on Thursdays, which helped eliminate that hook issue I encountered last week. The Python would grab on just a bit when shooting the 7-pin, and would straighten out when shooting the 10-pin. The Zone stayed true to it's trajectory the entire length of the lane.

One big variable that was entirely my fault is that I went to a different bowling center. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't choose this center instead because I had a coupon, its closer to my house, less likely to be busy, and I wanted to get home in time for the Steelers' 1PM kickoff. They all played a factor. But I also chose this center because I thought it would best emulate the lane conditions I see on Thursday nights, since they would be freshly oiled. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my house tends to have very dry lanes on Sunday mornings.

So what do I take away from all of this? I think that with some practice I can become just as accurate a spare shooter with the Zone as I am with the Python. I agree that plastic is better for shooting corner pins, but I still think I will rely on the Python for every other shot. During the league, I will make a judgement based on the lane conditions whether or not I feel that the plastic will be the more consistent shot as the night goes on and the lanes break down. But all in all, I think this was a successful experiment and I am excited for Thursday night.

December 2, 2011

Week 14 Recap

Game 1: 203
Game 2: 160
Game 3: 184
Series: 547
Week Avg: 182
Season Avg: 191


Practice quickly showed that the lane conditions to start the evening were similar to when we finished up two weeks before. I found a good line by playing more of an arch into the pocket rather than the more direct shot I had started with the last few weeks. There were also four of us playing a pretty similar line, so I expected the lanes to change a bit throughout the evening.

The first game started pretty well. I was striking with ease and picked up the two 10-pins and 6-pin I left. My only open was in the seventh or eighth frame when I missed the 4-pin by a hair to the left. I noticed that if I put the ball over my mark and it continued to the right another few boards before hooking into the pocket it was carrying a lot better than if I threw straight over my mark or drifted to the left. The latter is what caused the single pin leaves. I struck twice in the tenth and then hit the headpin just about straight on, leaving five pins standing. I finished the game with a 203, but more importantly we squeaked out a win by a few pins and are battling for first place this quarter.

The second game was ugly. I left and missed the 7-pin in the first frame and the 6-10 split in the second. I struck in the third, followed by a missed 4-pin and a missed 10-pin. I struck in the sixth frame and then left a 4-9 split. I made my first spare of the game in the eighth frame, taking out the 6-pin, and followed that up with a turkey. With two strikes in the tenth frame I left the 10-pin on my last ball and salvaged a 160 for the game. Every leave except the 4-9 split was makable and if I convert those I have a 204 game (that is accurate, I had to do the math because it was killing me to know what could have been). If I convert just one of those spares my team takes the game and the series last night, three big points in the team standings.

My third game started with a spare and then a high hit resulted in a solid 7-9 split. I missed another 4-pin before I realized that I should look past my spare target a few inches. This resulted in me getting the ball further out on the lane and the ball hooking later. I didn't miss a spare after that epiphany. I mixed in a few strikes, but the ball started coming in high and I spent much of the game trying to catch up with what it was doing. I finished the game with a 184 and a 547 series.

Lessons Learned

Last night was deja vu all over again. Another night, another batch of missed single pin spares. Luckily, there was a trend of missing every single one just barely to the left. I was able to realize that with the changing lanes, my ball was grabbing a bit sooner and missing left. By looking further out on the lane at my release, I was able to counteract the hook and began to make my spares like I did the first game. As I have been saying for a while now, I need to get out to practice a bit. I am starting to come around to the idea of using my plastic on spares, but I'd like to practice both ways before I make any changes during league play. I think its time to take "Don" out of the rotation and start carrying the plastic Zone.

My consistency issue seemed to disappear last night. I can think of only a couple times where I really missed my mark, which should have made my problems easier to diagnose. If I can take consistency out of the equation, I can really focus on the minor issues that are plaguing my game. For example, it didn't occur to me until the beginning of the third game that I had to play each lane slightly differently to get a good hit. The right lane hooked a little less than the left, but it caught up to the left lane by the end of the night.

On the car ride home, I realized that about halfway through the third game I should have moved my body and target about three boards to the left. I was trying to force the ball closer to the gutter and expecting it to come back to the pocket, but from where I was standing it was hanging out there a little too long. By moving left, I would have given the ball a little more space to get to the break point before driving into the pocket. It would have been a more drastic adjustment than I usually make during a game, but its something I will keep in mind for next week.

Its been difficult to get back into a rhythm with pre-bowling a few weeks and then having Thanksgiving off. I'll be fine for the next two weeks, but then need to pre-bowl again just before Christmas. Hopefully that will be the last time for the season and I can finish the second half of the season on a good note.

November 22, 2011

What I'm Thankful For

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I would share with you some of the things I am thankful for this league season:


While the bird is tastey, I prefer the kind of turkey that is comprised of three big Xs.  A turkey can help you salvage a less than stellar game in a big way.  It is also a great indication that you have got the lanes figured out.  The best kind of turkeys are the ones that travel in a group of four, but all turkeys are welcome when I'm on the lanes.  If nothing else, the appearance of a turkey can usually get one of my teammates to gobble.

Messenger Pin

I am ever so thankful for the messenger pin, when it decides to make an appearance on the lanes.  This pin usually turns a frustrating solid 10-pin into a strike or saves me from the embarassment of a 7-10 split, so what's not to like?  Besides, the messenger gives me the opportunity to turn around with an "I-knew-I-had-it-all-the-way" smile on my face.

Heavy Oil Down the Middle

I'm not a terribly accurate bowler, but luckily I am usually close enough to my marks that I can rely on the oil pattern to save me from a truly awful hit.  I'm particularly thankful when there is heavy oil down the middle of the lane, as this prevents my ball from either crossing over in front of the headpin or hooking right off the lane altogether.  I cannot begin to count the number of times this oil has saved me from a big split or missing the 4-pin.

That Guy Bowling Worse Than Me

I am always truly thankful to that one bowler each week who is doing worse than I am.  No matter how far underaverage I may be, on any given week there is always someone who is doing worse.  It really puts things in perspective: "Man, I sure sucked tonight, but at least I'm not that guy."   So I give thanks, whoever you are, for making my next bad night seem not so bad.

What are you thankful for this league season?

November 18, 2011

Week 13 Recap

Game 1: 213
Game 2: 170
Game 3: 165
Series: 548
Week Avg: 182
Season Avg: 191


Practice was not a source of confidence this week as I struggled to hit my mark and really didn't pull off a single good strike ball in the 10 minute session. There was a lot of oil in the first 2/3 of the lanes, so much so that the ball would come back practically dripping with oil. I anticipated that the lanes would change quickly tonight given that four of us threw a pretty similar line; however, with this much oil there wasn't really a change until the beginning of the third game.

The first eight frames of the first game could have easily been all strikes. The ball held nicely until the back end and was driving through the rack. Lighter hits tended to carry a little better than higher ones. I started with a four bagger, then came in light to leave a 10-pin and then high to leave a 7-pin. I missed both. I got back on track with a few good balls and then missed my mark to the right in the ninth frame, hanging the ball outside and leaving the 1-2-4, which I converted. I struck out in the tenth, finishing with a 213.

The second game started off with a couple of spares before leaving the 1-2-4 again, this time only picking up the 1- and 4-pins. I struck and then had what looked to be another great hit, but I left a solid 8-10 split. I stayed clean until the ninth frame, picking up a few strikes and spares, but always hitting a little high or a little light. In the ninth frame I almost left the 5-7 split, but the 7-pin fell. Unfortunately, I failed to convert a 5-pin. That's right, I missed a 5-pin in the ninth frame. I filled the tenth, but there was no salvaging this game, a dismal 170.

The beginning of the third game saw me fighting to get back on track to consistently hit my mark. I missed another 10-pin and finished 3 for 5 on that leave. I also failed to pick up the 3-6-10, a shot I haven't been very comfortable with this year. I did manage to pick up spares, but I continually felt uneasy about my first ball. I struck only once after making a small adjustment in the seventh frame. I finished with a 165 and a 548 series.

Lessons Learned

Last night was a case of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and since I came back from my two week hiatus things have been very up and down for me. To say my spare shooting has been a bit off is an understatement. I really need to find some time to get out and shoot nothing but corner pins and that blasted 3-6-10. The corner pins are typically a matter of concentration and not hitting my mark, but the 3-6-10 is a a matter of me totally blanking on how to approach the shot. Do I move slightly left and throw my strike ball or do I move further left and shoot it like it is a corner shot? For some reason every time this leave appears my mind goes blank.

Once again, my big problem last night was consistency. Starting in the second game, I continued to hit my mark at the arrows, but the ball was missing my target to the left or right further down the lane. Until the third game, the heavy oil was keeping the ball in the pocket when missing my target to the left.  Missing my target to the right, however, gave the ball no chance to strike. I wish I could say I found a solution for this problem, but I didn't. Not last night. The only thing I could do was start making my spares and live to bowl another day.

By the third game, I had just assumed that any issues were my own. This led me to forget about the fact that the lanes were changing and the ball was hooking a bit more. I was leaving more 7- and 4-pins from high hits and I didn't think to make an adjustment until the sixth frame. I moved up a few inches and found a better hit, but then I started leaving 10-pins and frankly just ran out of time.

I've seemed to have reached a plateau in my average. I have been hovering in the 192/193 range since the end of last year. In order to overcome this stagnation, I need to become a better spare shooter. I suppose it is good that I realize what aspect is holding me back, but being able to get better at that aspect is going to take practice and a whole lot of patience.

November 10, 2011

Week 12 Recap

Game 1: 198
Game 2: 209
Game 3: 205
Series: 612
Week Avg: 204
Season Avg: 192


By the time practice was over, I was still pretty uncomfortable with my strike shot and I didn't have a good line into the pocket.  I did manage to shoot one 10-pin, which I made, so I thought at least I would have a good spare night.  Wrong.

I started the first game with a double and then I missed the 2-4 spare.  I shot a strike and then missed the 10-pin my next two frames, and then followed that up with the same sequence.  I did strike in every even frame, 7 total strikes, and still managed to not hit a 200.  I didn't even know that was mathematically possible.  I finished with a 198.

The second game started with a double again, and then I missed the 4-pin.  In the fifth frame the ball hit light and I left the 1-2-5-7-10.  I made four out of the five pins on that leave, which I believe was a first for me.  I followed that up with a few nine count spares, my first of the night, and strung a few strikes together to finish with a 209.

The last game saw the left lane start to dry up a bit, so I adjusted up a few inches and kept my pocket hit similar to earlier in the night.  In the sixth frame I left the 9-10 split and dumped the ball into the gutter about 3/4 of the way down the lane.  I kept it together though and had a strong finish, a 205 game and 612 series.

Lesson Learned

First I want to apologize for the watered down post this week.  I am writing this a half hour after my last game without my usual 12 hours of reflection since I will be out of town tomorrow.

This week was about spares.  I missed my mark on my first six spare shots tonight, which is how a game with 7 strikes didn't break 200.  If I was shooting across the lane to the left I was missing my mark to the right and if I was shooting at the 10-pin I was missing to the left.  I think I was just so wrapped up in getting comfortable with my first ball that I wasn't concentrating enough on the spare.  Once I was comfortable with my strike ball, the spares seemed easier to make.

So the lesson is really to make sure you are focusing on the shot in front of you.  There is time between frames to contemplate what your next move should be.

November 4, 2011

Week 11 Recap

Game 1: 192
Game 2: 176
Game 3: 169
Series: 537
Week Avg: 179
Season Avg: 191


It was good to be back after not bowling in over two weeks. Practice started out alright, but I could tell after a few throws that there was a lot of oil along the right gutter, so missing my mark to the right was going to result in missing the pocket. I threw a few strikes and shot the 7- and 10-pins. At the end of practice, I was relatively comfortable with how the lanes were reacting.

My instincts must have been off, because my first frame resulted in a 2-7 split and I picked off the 2-pin. I brushed it off and started to throw a fairly decent ball, striking or leaving easy spares throughout the rest of the game. I was fishing for a good place to stand on the right lane because the ball just did not want to come into the pocket. I moved back a few inches, but the ball was still skidding in that oil on the outside and coming in light. I moved right a board, but then I was too high. The next time on the right lane I moved back up the few inches I adjusted earlier but stayed one board to the right and that seemed to be a good line. The left lane was coming in well, but by the end of the first game that started to hang outside too so I moved right a board on that lane as well. I stayed clean after the first frame, but couldn't manage to string any strikes together and finished with a 192.

I started the next game making a 2-4 spare and then struck in the second. I left a 5-7 split but picked that up, struck again, and then missed a 10-pin by dumping the ball in the gutter a couple of feet before the pin. I made a few more spares and mixed in another strike before missing a 7-pin in the tenth frame, finishing with a 176.

The third game started by making the 10-pin. I followed that up with a strike and another spare before missing a 4-pin. I started coming in light on the left lane resulting in a few 10-pins even though I moved back a bit, and the right lane was coming in a little too high even though I moved up and left a bit. I missed another 10-pin somewhere near the seventh frame and then left the 5-10 split in the tenth frame, making this the third Thursday night outing in a row where I ended the night with a split open. I finished with a 169 game and a 537 series. This was the first night all season I did not have at least one 200 game.

Lesson Learned

Fatigue + Ever-changing lane conditions = Disappointing night

You don't realized how conditioned you are for bowling until you take a few weeks off and that conditioning is gone. I had a few exhausting days at work and, combined with my first night of bowling in 17 days, I was very tired by the start of the third game. To make matters worse, the lanes didn't quite change like I expected them to and my decision making wasn't at its best. I didn't feel entirely comfortable and in the end I threw only a handful of really good strike balls.

The first game was alright and I knew there was a lot of oil down the lane and little room for error. As the second game progressed, the backend started to hook a little bit more and I was hitting the pocket more consistently, but the hits just weren't carrying. I expected that my ball would grab and flatten out when shooting the 10-pin in the second game, but it didn't and fell in the gutter. Though my ball did grab in the tenth frame when shooting the 7-pin, pulling it into the gutter just short of the pin. Then to add insult to injury the ball bounced out and knocked the pin over, so I had to go through the shame of taking the spare off the scoreboard. The third game started with promise and I had good pocket hits on the left lane, but all of a sudden the ball was hitting just a bit light leaving the 10-pin.  It took me a bit by surprise because judging how the lane had progressed so far that evening I expected to eventually come in high.  That happened on the right lane instead.

Looking back, the left lane had about a four to five frame lag in oil conditions when compared to the right lane. Whatever adjustment I made on the right lane, a half game later that's where I was on the left lane. I hope that next week I will be back to my old form and a little more aware of what is going on on the lanes. The most frustrating part was that is didn't feel like a bad night until that very last frame with the split.

Oh well, part of being a good bowler is the ability to brush off nights like this week and focus on the road ahead.

October 25, 2011

Pre-Bowling: Advantage or Disadvantage

My wife and I are both from eastern Pennsylvania, but moved to Pittsburgh permanently our senior year of college.  In addition to the holidays, we find ourselves making a few trips across the state each year to visit our families.  These trips make bowling 34 Thursday nights a year a bit challenging, so once or twice a season I take advantage of pre-bowling.

My particular league allows bowlers to throw as many games as they’d like in anticipation of missing a week of league play.  If a bowler is absent and they have banked games, they can be used instead of their adjusted absent score based on their average for that week.  Any games not used for the league must then be paid for at the conclusion of the season, though I only pre-bowl if I know I will be missing a week.

I tend to pre-bowl on Sundays at noon.  Upon my arrival, it is unmistakably clear that the entire atmosphere of the bowling center is different than at 6:30 on Thursdays.  This lead me to wonder: is pre-bowling an advantage or a disadvantage to the bowler? These are my arguments for both sides.


Being the only person on your set of lanes, you are able to bowl at your own pace.  League play can drag on if every bowler is present and sometimes it can be over ten minutes between frames.  When bowling alone, you can immediately throw your next frame as soon as the ball returns, allowing you to quickly try any new adjustments without worrying that you will forget.  Or you can take your time and think through every shot at your own desired speed.  

Also, since you are the only one on the set of lanes, the oil pattern will not change as drastically.  Throughout the course of a league night the oil on the lanes can be pulled into the backend or evaporate, thus changing the way your ball reacts.  When bowling alone, these changes are more gradual and adjustments do not need to be as severe from shot to shot.  In addition, the amount of oil you are faced with during pre-bowling may be more advantageous to your style than it is during league play.  Before league play at my house the lanes are freshly oiled and my ball does not hook very much; however, on Sunday mornings the lanes are a bit drier and the lanes tend to hook more.  Removing the oil takes a variable out of the equation and allows me to focus on my marks, rather than anticipating how the lane conditions are going to deteriorate.

For the most part a pre-bowler can determine what time they are going to bowl, whereas league times never change.  I am much fresher at noon on a Sunday than at 6:30 on a Thursday, after rushing home from work to eat dinner and then rushing to the bowling alley.  Some people have a time of day when they feel their best and bowling at that time instead of whenever a league fits into your schedule can make a big impact on your mental and physical game.  The bowling center might also be much less crowded during the pre-bowling session.  League nights tend to be loud with bowlers yelling and cheering on their teammates or trying to buy/sell 50/50 tickets.  This noise can lead to a lot of distractions and cause you to miss your marks or forget how you wanted to adjust on your next ball.  When pre-bowling, you could be one of only a few people in the entire building, eliminating most distractions.

The end result is a bowler who is in much more control over their environment both on and off the lanes.


While being able to dictate the pace of your game can work out in your favor, some bowlers are unable to restrain themselves from throwing ball after ball with no rest in between.  This can cause you to rush your shots or tire quickly, throwing off your natural mechanics by changing ball speed one way or the other.  If you blow through a game too quickly, you might also overlook that small adjustment that could make a big difference on the score sheet.  League play has built in downtime that allows the bowler to reflect on their last frame and decide if any adjustments need to be made before their next ball.

League play also comes with the advantage of being able to watch other bowlers.  Throughout the night, I spot one or two bowlers that throw a line similar to mine and I watch for their ball’s breakpoint and how they adjust to various lane changes and shots.  This allows me to better predict how my ball is going to react and anticipate what adjustments will need to be made.  When pre-bowling alone there is no reference and you need to make all of your decisions without the benefit of watching, or consulting, other bowlers.

The amount of oil on the lane at the time of pre-bowling is also a double-edged sword.  As I mentioned above, I just so happen to have stumbled upon a time to pre-bowl that tends to have my favorite lane conditions; however, the difference in lane conditions between league play and pre-bowling can also be a nightmare.  For example, if your house tends to put heavy oil down before league play, chances are that most experienced bowlers will have a ball that performs best in that amount of oil.  But, if during the pre-bowl the lanes are lacking oil, that same bowler is now forced to play a huge hook and an unfamiliar shot.  This complicates the entire session, as now the bowler has several more things to consider before and during each throw.

Most of us bowl in a certain league because it occurs on a day and time that best fits our schedule.  That means that we are now forcing a session of pre-bowling into our already busy lives where ever there may be a spare moment, which is not always at the best time for the individual.  When I was in my junior league, the only time I had to pre-bowl was on Saturday afternoon after the very football practice that caused me to miss the league in the first place.  I was always so tired that I throwing the ball inconsistently and making mental errors when considering adjustments.

The change in bowling center environment is also a distraction for some bowlers.  League night is often a time to relax with friends and have a good time, but pre-bowling tends to be all business and probably not as fun.  Also, you might be the only person bowling in the entire center, putting some more pressure on you to not make a fool of yourself in front of the employees.  Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, you might be right next to a birthday party with a dozen first graders or a group of rowdy teenagers.  I’m pretty laid back and a father, but these can be annoying distractions.  On Sunday mornings when I pre-bowl, the center has two large screens that descend over the far end of the lanes showing NFL pregame shows and games.  This causes some glare near the arrows on the lanes, as well as movement and light flashes I am not used to having in my peripheral vision during my approach.

Where I Stand

I really see pre-bowling as a toss up.  I would much rather bowl during my usual league time and have fun with everyone.  But, at the same time, I know that when I pre-bowl I will have far fewer distractions and usually have favorable lane conditions.  I only pre-bowl when I am out of the city or, in the case of this week, have a work related event.  Pre-bowling is about discipline and versatility.  You must be able to keep yourself in check, making sure to not rush yourself and not change your routine before each ball.  You must also be able to bowl on various lane conditions with different, sometimes challenging, distractions all around you.

Pre-bowling is a simple concept, but as you can see, there are a lot of factors at play.  If you are like me and are usually only able to bowl on league nights you may find yourself slipping into a comfort zone, which could present some of the challenges mentioned above once you step out of that zone.

October 17, 2011

Week 10 Pre-Bowl Recap

Game 1: 249
Game 2: 183
Game 3: 235
Series: 667
Week Avg: 222
Season Avg: 193

This is the second of two weeks that I needed to pre-bowl for my league since I will be unable to make our usual Thursday time.  I will have at least one non-league update in the coming weeks and be back at league on Thursday, November 3rd.


Practice started off alright and I found the pocket fairly quickly. The lanes were what I expected for Sunday at opening: dry back ends with a bit more hook than the usual freshly oiled Thursday night lanes. The ambiance this weekend was a bit different than when I pre-bowled a few Sundays ago. There was a another guy pre-bowling a few sets down to my right and two lanes to my left were a pair a fathers and their 6 year old sons.

I started the first game with a strike and followed it up with a light pocket hit, leaving the 10-pin which I picked up. Using my new philosophy of not second guessing myself I made a quick adjustment by moving back a couple of inches. I came in a little high and left the 4-pin, which I converted, but I also noted that I missed my mark a bit to the left so no adjustment was necessary. I threw a strike and followed it up with another light pocket 10-pin. I picked up that spare and decided to move right a half board on my next shot.  It turns out that was a pretty good idea. I struck out the rest of the game, that's 7 in a row, and finished with a 249.

The next game I started with another strike and then hit high to leave the 7-pin, which I converted. I was a bit shaky after throwing 8 in a row, which is a new personal best, and missed my mark to the left on that shot. In the third frame I missed my mark to the right and hit way light, leaving the 1-2-8. I picked up that spare and decided to move back a little bit more on my next ball. It turns out that I may have adjusted a little prematurely. I hit light and left two 10-pins in a row before striking again. I hit light again and left the 6-10, which I made. Another light hit in the eighth frame left the 10-pin, but I barely missed it to the left this time. I noticed the tape in my thumb hole was inching out of the top and was effecting my grip on the ball. I decided to change the tape and struck in the ninth frame. I picked up another 7-pin spare and then moved back up the couple inches I adjusted in the fifth frame before my next ball. I threw a strike and finished the game with a 183.

The third game started out great and I struck the first six in a row. I got a little nervous at the start of the seventh frame and missed my mark to the right. The ball came back, but not enough, leaving the 2-pin. I picked that up and then made two 7-pin spares and a 10-pin spare in the ninth frame. I left the 10-pin again in the tenth, and much like my open in the second game I barely missed the pin to the left. I finished the game with a 235 and a 667 series. Its always rough opening in the tenth frame, and its even worse when you are throwing a great first ball. However, I left feeling pretty happy with how things went and I know its going to be a long few weeks until I get back on the lanes.

Lesson Learned

Wow, that was the best I have bowled in a long time.  I almost never throw that many strikes, and to only have two opens the whole series was a real confidence booster.  The lanes were the exact opposite of Thursday night in that they were very forgiving. If I missed my mark by a board to the right or left, I could still count on a solid pocket hit.

So where did the second game go wrong? After coming in really light I decided to move back on the approach a few inches. This helped, but I overlooked two key elements that also effected that shot. The first was that the tape in my thumb hole was bunching up and causing me to not get a snug fit in the ball. This was causing the ball to come off my hand a little early, thus losing revs and hook in the backend. The second issue, somewhat related, was that I was missing my mark to the right. I say they are related because the thumb is what directs the ball to the target, so if the thumb is coming out early that means the ball is going to miss right. Also, by losing revs on the ball, it didn't have enough bite to make up the difference of boards missed in the backend. Once I fixed the tape, the problems disappeared and I quickly adjusted back to where I needed to be.

Its hard to see something as trivial as three pieces of tape ruin a potential 700 series, but it did teach me to be observant of my equipment. If something doesn't feel right, fix it right away or else your game will suffer and you might even hurt yourself.

That being said, as I left the center on Sunday I had a big smile on my face. I just set a new personal best 8 strikes in a row and followed it with another seven in a row later in the series. I also threw a new season high game and series . . . and totally impressed some 6 year old kid.

October 14, 2011

Week 8 Recap

Game 1: 204
Game 2: 186
Game 3: 193
Series: 583
Week Avg: 194
Season Avg: 189

Note: Week 9's recap is already posted because I prebowled those games on October 2nd. Week 10's recap will be posted early next week as I will be prebowling those games on Sunday.


There were only five bowlers on our set of lanes this week and we finished about an hour earlier than the week before. The games moved quickly and there wasn't much time between frames to contemplate adjustments. Practice went fairly well, but everyone was sticking at the foul line on the right lane. As a result, I slowed my approach so I wouldn't wipe out in front of everyone.

The first game started with two light hits, but I picked up the spares. I moved back two inches and found the pocket. I struck and spared pretty regularly with only a missed 10-pin preventing a clean game. I noticed that there wasn't much room for error on the lanes early on. If I missed my mark to the right the ball would hang out there for a long time before snapping back at the very end. If it found the pocket after that it was usually too steep an entry and wouldn't carry. If I missed my mark to the left it would hold in the middle of the lane and barely hook at the end. This worried me a little bit because that is typically a problem that could leave splits, but luckily I managed to avoid those and hit on the left of the head pin. These issues were a result of the oil being carried down the lane and into the backend. With a full compliment of bowlers, this is usually overcome early on or even in practice. Since we had five bowlers, with only two throwing my line, it was a struggle well into the second game. In the tenth frame I threw the first two strikes and then hit light again leaving the 4-8. I finished with a 204.

The second game started with me missing my mark to the right and leaving the 1-2-8. I picked up two that frame and stayed clean until the fifth frame, where I barely missed a 7-pin. From there on the oil in the backend began to ease up and the lanes became a little more forgiving. I struck out in the tenth frame to win the game for the team and finished with a 186.  It wasn't enough to advance in the brackets and to make matters worse, I pulled the winning 50/50 ticket that just so happened to belong to the same fellow who beat me.

I started the third game with a strike/spare/strike/spare and then threw a turkey. I could do no wrong on the right lane, but the left lane saw me come in a bit high so I moved up the two inches I adjusted in the first game and was hitting fine. In the eighth frame on the left lane I thought I had a great shot, but I left and missed a solid 4-pin. I struck on the right lane in the ninth frame, giving me at least eight strikes in a row on that particular lane. In the tenth frame I came in just a little high, and left the 4-9 split. If this sounds familiar, it should. I did the exact same thing in the third game last week and, just like last week, missed the 4-pin to the left by a hair. I finished that game with a 193 and a 583 series. That split cost me another 200 game and a probable 600 series.

Lesson Learned

I took last week's advice and made a promise to myself that I wouldn't second guess any decision on a shot. If I thought I should make an adjustment, I committed to it without backing out at the last second. I thought it worked out well and will continue to trust my judgement on reading the lanes.

My biggest problem last night was inconsistency in hitting my mark, a common problem for me. Early on I attributed it to worrying about falling down due to the tacky approach. Once that issue was gone, somewhere in the middle of the first game, I had no excuse but poor concentration. I noticed on one or two occasions I wasn't following through on my release, causing me to miss my mark to the right. On a few other occasions I noticed I was over-rotating my wrist, causing me to pull my shot to the left. Luckily I am able to diagnose these problems and can feel when a shot isn't right, but I need to work on preventing these issues from cropping up in the first place. Hopefully better concentration on my target will force me to follow through with my release on every shot, extending my arm out past my mark. Its something to work on this Sunday when I prebowl for week 10.

First Quarter Season Review

Last night was the end of the first quarter of the season. While ultimately successful, I feel that the first quarter was a bit under average for me. I hit a point in the middle of the quarter where I was missing easy singe pin spares, and while I am still missing the corner pins and the 4-pin from time to time, I think this has gotten better. Missed spares are definitely a big part of why my average is not currently in the 190s.

On the positive side, I threw eleven 200 games in the first quarter. That is 45% of the games thrown with at least one 200 every week. Also, my lowest series is a 521. I am usually good for a handful of 400 series a season, a trend I am hoping to overcome this year.

I am on the upswing coming into the beginning of the second quarter.  Hopefully I can relay the positives from my last few outings into boosting my average back to the 190s.

October 7, 2011

Week 7 Recap

Game 1: 181
Game 2: 207
Game 3: 181
Series: 569
Week Avg: 189
Season Avg: 188


All eight bowlers were present and right handed, so once again I knew going into the night that reading the lanes was going to be an important part of the evening.  I threw three frames of practice, and although I didn't have a good pocket hit I was fairly confident going in that I knew where I needed to be to start the game.  I also had a chance to shoot a 7-pin and a 10-pin, which is always nice.

The first game began with a few light pocket shots, but I was able to pick up my spares and move on.  I left an 8-pin on one shot, but I misplayed my second ball, which slid down the middle of the lane and missed the pin about two inches to the right.  I moved right a board for my first ball, but that adjustment wasn't enough.  I picked up that spare and on the next ball I moved back a little bit, but that also wasn't doing the trick.  I left a 2-7 split and chopped the 2-pin head on for another open.  When I missed my mark a board to the right, the ball would hook earlier and come in too high and if I missed my mark to the left it would skid through a lot of oil in the middle and not really break at all, so I wanted to keep my mark where it was for the time being.  I managed to keep it clean through the game and had a 181.

The second game started with a ten pin spare.  I was now coming in too high from where I was, so I knew I had to make an adjustment back the other way.  Before the second frame I thought that given how high I came in on my last ball that I should move left a board and up about an inch.  At the last second on the approach I second-guessed myself and only moved left a board.  As a result, I came in high leaving the 6-7-9-10 split.  To make it worse, I missed my mark to the left on the spare shot and only picked up the 9-pin instead of the whole three pin group.  I moved up a little and the next shot was better, but now it was coming in a little light.  The next frame I decided to slow my ball speed just a  bit to compensate for that extra board I needed for a good pocket hit.  It was like magic.  I fired off a few strikes and single pin spares, including a strike the first ball of the tenth frame. The next ball came in a little light leaving the 7-pin, which I barely missed in the gutter.  It actually popped out of the gutter and knocked it down, which is like adding insult to injury.  I finished with a 207, but that open in the tenth cost us the game.

The third game started with a turkey, which I promptly followed up with a 7-10 split.  I took the 10-pin on that shot and spent the rest of the game battling with drying lane conditions.  From the last half of the second game through the rest of the night the ball would hook a little more on each shot.  At first I stayed where I was and adjusted back to my normal ball speed, but after a while that wasn't enough.  I was hitting the pocket, but the 10-pin was calling my name.  Luckily I didn't miss that shot all night.  I had a strike or two mixed in, but in the tenth frame I left the 4-9 split as a result of a very high pocket hit.  Instead of going for one, I tried to make the split and missed the 4-pin just to the left.  I finished with another 181 game and a 569 series, averaging one pin over my current 188 average.  Luckily the last game was enough to win us the game and series, and win me the brackets for the night, putting some money in my pocket.

Lesson Learned

This week I bowled against the best guy in the league, who averages about 210.  We both anchor our respective teams and are very similar in our approach to the game, the way we throw the ball, how we adjust to the lane conditions, we were even throwing the same exact line last night.  The main difference between us is consistency.  Bruce very rarely misses his mark on the lanes, while I tend to miss my mark at least two or three times per game.  With my spare shooting troubles seemingly overcome for the time being, this is one of the biggest roadblocks in my game.

Bruce was up on me by two pins after the second game, but closed out with a 212.  His 602 total was under average for him, but he didn't really seem to mind. Throughout the night I noticed he was battling the same problems as me.  Once we finished, I was talking with Bruce and another bowler in the league, Mike, who averages about 195, about what our "go to" adjustment is for leaving the solid 10-pin.  Bruce preferred moving one board left because he felt that even if he came in light initially, the 4-pin was an easier spare and eventually that shot would start to carry.  Mike preferred to speed up his delivery so that the increased ball speed would allow less time for the ball to hook.  Bruce and I both expressed concern that changes in ball speed, while potentially effective, are a last resort for us due to the possibility that the synchronization of the entire delivery would be effected.  As you may have noticed by now, I prefer to move up on the approach a couple of inches so the ball has less room to hook into the pocket.  If I am already moved up and still coming in high, then I move left.

After talking with these guys for a while, my confidence in how I read the lanes and adjust skyrocketed.  I am totally in sync with what these guys are doing, and its really just a matter of trusting myself.  I second guessed myself in the second game and it cost me last night.  But I think now that I had this little chat, I feel ready to trust my instincts from now on.

October 3, 2011

Week 9 Pre-Bowl Recap

Game 1: 180
Game 2: 196
Game 3: 203
Series: 579
Week Avg: 193
Season Avg: to be determined 189

Every season I find at least one week that I am unable to attend bowling at its normally scheduled day and time.  Luckily, I am in a league that allows people to pre-bowl.  I will be pre-bowling for weeks 9 and 10 the next couple of weekends, which is good for you because that means twice as many posts the next two weeks.  Its also good for me because I will have the opportunity to work out any issues that arise on Thursday night.  And don't worry, I won't leave you high and dry in the two weeks I miss.  I'm planning an appropriate post on whether pre-bowling provides an advantage or disadvantage for a bowler.


Everything is different on Sunday at noon when compared to my usual league time of 6:30PM on Thursday.  For one, the center is really quiet.  There weren't any other people bowling on my side of the center, but there were plenty of people milling around waiting for the start of a bowling/Steelers game watching party.  Apart from the ambiance of the center, the lanes are always much drier on Sundays.  I knew I would be playing a bigger hook, and found a decent line standing four boards left of where I was on Thursday and shooting one board left of the second arrow.  Unfortunately I was having a difficult time hitting my mark and found myself either coming into the pocket about two boards too light or hitting the left side of the headpin.  Luckily, this allowed me to shoot a 10-pin and a few 7-pins before practice was over.  After throwing the equivalent of a complete game of practice, time ran out and I was confident that as long as I hit my mark I would have a decent shot at striking.

I started off the first game with a few light hits and a strike, but converted my first three spares.  In the fifth frame I missed a 7-pin because I missed my mark to the right.  I managed to stay clean the rest of the game, converting several more 7-pins and my best friend the 10-pin.  I even made the 3-10 split.  My spare shooting confidence was returning and I finished the game with a 180.

The second game started pretty similar to the first.  I had a couple of spares and a strike, but I was still missing my mark about a board to the right or left and that was making a big difference in the backend.  I tried moving a half board right to force myself to throw over my mark and I tried moving back a few inches to give the ball more time to react; however, as I would later realize, the real battle here was with my mechanics, not the lanes.  After missing a 7-pin in the fourth frame I decided to move my mark an inch closer to me.  This worked for a while and I was striking a bit more and not coming in as light in the pocket.  I either struck or had a nine-count spare through the rest of the game and finished with a 196.

The third game started about the same with a spare and a strike.  In the third frame I hit way light and left the 2-4-8.  I made a bad decision on how to approach the shot, thinking that the ball would still hook in the middle of the lane because of how dry the lanes were closer to the gutter, and just barely kicked out the 2-pin.  I spared and then missed my third 7-pin of the day.  On that shot I realized that I wasn't getting nearly as much lift on the ball as I usually do.  The ball was just falling off of my hand with less revolutions, thus causing the ball to list lazily into the pocket rather than grabbing the lanes and driving through the rack.  I really focused on staying behind the ball and getting good revs from then on and I struck in the sixth and seventh frames.  I made a 10-pin in the eighth frame and then struck out, throwing a 203 and a 579 series.  Its over what my average is right now, but by the time these scores are applied in week 9 I hope my average is somewhere closer to that.

Lesson Learned

My spare shot confidence is back! I hope this carries into Thursday night, as my scores were greatly improved because of it.

Its easy to think there is some adjustment you can make in body position or that a change in your target will correct any issue you might have.  If you have been bowling for a while, muscle memory tends to take over much of your approach and release, so nine times out of ten that is correct.  But there is always that one time where something in your mechanics is the problem, and you need to be able to identify that quickly and be able to distinguish those problems from those attributed to the lanes.  During this outing, I was trying to use lane and body adjustments to correct a mechanical problem.  My follow through and ball release were lazy, causing the ball to have less revolutions and less power in the backend.  Once I was willing to look at what I was doing, instead of how the lanes were reacting, I was able to quickly diagnose the problem.  By concentrating harder on my release and my hand position as I let go of the ball, my inaccuracy seemed to disappear as well.

Its amazing how our minds work.  If we concentrate especially hard on one aspect of our mechanics, the rest all seems to come together.

Do you have any tips on how to identify whether a problem is caused by body mechanics or the lanes?

September 30, 2011

Week 6 Recap

Game 1: 141
Game 2: 153
Game 3: 227
Series: 521
Week Avg: 173
Season Avg: 188


Last night I fell victim to bad practice decisions, and it cost me in my first and second games.  I threw four straight strikes in practice, which sounds like a good thing.  I was going to use my fifth practice frame to shoot the corner pins and get a feel for my spare shots, but I ran out of time.  Entering the first game I was only able to speculate at how my ball would react shooting at the 7-pin, and for that matter, how much my ball would move while shooting at the 10-pin.  The lanes were a little drier than last week, so I knew I would have a bit of a hook to work with.

The first game began with my fifth strike in a row, but I left and missed the 10-pin in the second frame.  I did not have the concentration needed on my spare shot, which I knew because I couldn't recall where my ball crossed the arrows.  Through the rest of the game I left two more ringing 10-pins, a 2-pin, and a 2-10 split.  Of those, I converted only one 10-pin and picked up the 2-pin of the split.  I managed to get a few strikes, all on the right lane and finished with a 141, my worst performance of the season.  My problem on the left lane was that the ball was just a hair too high in the pocket, a common cause for a solid 10-pin leave.  I tried two of my most reliable adjustments, moving up and moving left on the approach, but the ball was still coming in a little high.  The difference between a strike and leaving the 10-pin was less than one inch, and as it would eventually turn out, the successful adjustment would also be the matter of an inch.

The second game started with another 10-pin leave.  After this shot, I decided to try increasing my ball speed on the left lane.  This adjustment gives the ball a little less time to get to the pocket and I hoped it would make up for that one board difference I needed for a strike.  I find that this adjustment comes with a risk of throwing off some of my mechanics, so I tend to leave this as a last option.  During the first half of the game I kept it clean on the right lane, picking up a strike and a 10-pin spare (a result of that lane beginning to run high), but I still couldn't solve the mystery of the ringing 10-pin on the left lane.  Finally, I decided that instead of changing body position or ball speed, I would look about an inch past where my mark was.  This gets the ball a little further down the lane resulting in a later break toward the pocket.  In addition, this adjustment also has a tendency to force the bowler to follow through, assisting in accuracy.  I missed a 4-pin and another 10-pin, but I finished the game with a 153 and some much needed confidence going into the final game.  I made a few spares and I was consistently in the pocket, what wasn't to like?

The last game was glorious compared to the rest of the evening.  I was striking on both lanes.  I converted my last 10-pin, a 4-pin, a 6-pin and the 4-7 leaves.  It is amazing how confidence can change an evening.  My new mark had the ball coming in a little lighter than I usually like, but the pins were falling so I wasn't about to change anything.  I needed a 279 to hit my average for the night, and I finished with a clean 227 which is my highest game of the season and a 521 series, another season low.  This was a respectable finish to an embarrassing evening.

Lesson Learned

Stay patient and don't quit.

After three weeks of sub-par totals and watching my average plummet ten pins, I am officially in a slump.  Its frustrating, but I am trying to make this a learning experience and get it out of the way early in the season.

The second game was probably the best 153 I will ever throw.  Every hit was in the pocket and that game could have just as easily been in the 280s or (dare I say) higher.  Every ball was a strike or a nine-count.  As far as my first ball is concerned, last night was the most consistent I have ever been.  This type of consistency allowed me to try all of the above mentioned adjustments without further damaging my score.

That being said, there were other factors having a negative impact on my score.  I was 3 for 7 in converting 10-pins and I missed the 2-pin and 4-pin.  Much like last week, missed spares, especially single pin spares, destroyed my first two games.  Three of my four missed 10-pins saw the ball pass to the left of the pin so closely you could barely put a piece of paper between them.  The adjustment that solved that problem was the same that fixed leaving the 10-pin in the first place, looking just past my mark.  Though I think that adjustment was more about correcting my follow through than playing the lanes.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that I was "chicken winging" my arm on my spare shots.  Once I tucked my elbow back in as a result of the adjustment I started converting my spares.

How do you handle leaving the 10-pin on what appears to be a good strike ball? Do you make any adjustments to correct the issue?

September 23, 2011

Week 5 Recap

Game 1: 168
Game 2: 204
Game 3: 152
Series: 524
Week Avg: 174
Season Avg: 191


Practice seemed like every other night.  The lanes were freshly oiled, but the ball was moving a bit in the backend and I felt pretty comfortable with my shots going into the first game.  The main difference here was that all eight bowlers were present for the first time and all eight bowlers were right handed.

The first game started with a strike; however, the second frame I missed the pocket to the right and left the 1-2-4-7 and missed the 4-pin on the spare attempt.  I came in light in the third, but picked up the 4-pin this time.  Then I managed to strike four in a row before the ugliness happened.  I came in light several times leaving three splits, including one in the ninth and tenth frames, as well as a 1-2-7-8 monstrosity that I only managed to pick up two.  It was a disappointing game to be sure, because when I was in the pocket the pins didn't stand a chance.  The oil was being pushed down the lane on the right side and the backend was not offering the hook it did at the beginning of the game. I finished with a 168.

The second game began much as the first left off.  I left a 5-7 split, which I field goaled, and missed a 7-pin.  I was slowing down because I was just flat out tired, which was bringing some movement back to the ball. Finally, I began to pick up my spares and even strike a bit.  I managed to throw a turkey from the ninth into the tenth frame this time and pulled off a 204 game.

The third game started with a strike, but then the 5-7 split came back with another light hit only this time I hit the 5-pin.  After that, I wasn't throwing a bad ball, but I was doing an awful job at picking up my spares, missing another 7-pin.  I did manage to convert a 3-10 split, which could easily be called the highlight of the game.  I had to spare and then strike in the tenth to pull off a 152, my worst so far this season.  Tonight showed the other side of why spares are important.  My first game would have been a 200 easy if I wouldn't have opened four frames.  My last game also would have been considerably higher had I picked up the few simple spares I left.

Lesson Learned

Tonight I learned that I need to trust my knowledge and instincts.  In speaking with another bowler I predicted that because everyone was right handed and the lanes were particularly oily, eventually that oil would find its way to the backend and ball movement would disappear.  When I started coming in consistently light, leaving a lot of splits on the left side, it took me a couple of frames to evaluate what I was doing to make sure it wasn't a case of missing my mark or pulling my arm across my body at the release.  Then when I did make a move, it was only a half board or a small adjustment.  I told myself it probably wasn't enough, but I was afraid of coming in too high and leaving even more splits.  It took a few small adjustments in a row to eventually find my line again, and by the time I did I had thrown a 168 game.

As for the third game, I need to remember that even though the backend was covered in oil on the right side, if no one is shooting on the left it is going to be considerably drier.  I missed two 7-pins last night because I did not think about this detail when lining up my spare shot.  I used to pride myself on my spare shooting, and I think I need to take a step back and work on making those single pin leaves automatic spares again.

How is league going for you so far? Are you working on any aspects of your game this season?

September 16, 2011

Week 4 Recap

Game 1: 226
Game 2: 160
Game 3: 185
Series: 571
Week Avg: 190
Season Avg: 195


Last night had a little bit of everything.  During practice it was easy to see that oil had been pushed into the backend, causing the ball to break just before hitting the pins rather than a feet few out.  After some moving around I managed to throw a turkey as practice finished up and was fairly confident heading into the first game.

The first game started with a spare and then I missed the 2-pin in the second frame.  I hadn't shot anything on the left side of the lane up to that point and found that the backend on that side was considerably drier and thus hooking a little more.  I came into the pocket light in both frames so I made a small adjustment back on the approach and hit five strikes in a row.  I managed to keep the rest of the game clean; however I pulled my first ball in the tenth frame, came in pretty high and was lucky enough to avoid a split.  I did the same on my third ball in the tenth, but finished with my high game of the season so far with a 226.  Its hard to be disappointed with that, but the missed 2-pin, a pretty routine pickup, and those missed opportunities in the tenth ruined a potential 240 or higher.

The second game began with me missing the 9-pin.  I was standing a little too far right and missed it by probably half a board.  The backend began to dry and the ball started to come in high so I moved left half a board to bring it back into the pocket.  I had a few spares and a strike until the fifth frame where I left the 1-7-10.  That has to be a first for me, it was pretty ugly.  I came in really light and barely tapped the 3-pin to take out the 2-pin and the rest just kind of fell back.  I managed to pick up two of the three pins and was fairly close to knocking out the 10-pin from behind.  I was light two more times in the second half of the game and left the 2-6-10 and another split in the ninth frame.  Usually there is some room for error in hitting your mark and the pocket, but last night was unforgiving.  I managed to followup my best game of the season with my worst of the season with a 160.

The last game picked up exactly where the first left off and I missed the 4-pin, another routine shot.  Clearly I was doing something wrong causing me to be inconsistent in hitting my marks.  I really concentrated and managed to stay clean up to the ninth frame where I missed the 6-pin.  I had plenty of practice with spares on the left side last night and was getting a little frustrated.  In the tenth frame I decided to change where I held the ball at the start of my release, holding it further to the right and facilitating a straighter follow through to my target than usual.  I managed to strike out and finish with a 185.

Lesson Learned

There were a few things that I needed to evaluate last night, and more importantly need to keep in mind for the future.  The first is to not make an adjustment too soon.  While being able to read the lanes and make changes without sacrificing your score is a mark of a great bowler, sometimes we adjust one aspect of our game when there is something else causing the problem.  Last night, for example, I changed where I was standing on the approach because I began to come in high in the pocket; however, once I moved I was consistently coming in light and I paid for that adjustment with the 1-7-10 and two splits I left in the second game.  My body position was not the problem, it was my inconsistency in hitting my target and the fact that the lanes provided no room for error.

The second thing is to remember to keep your cool.  If you are frustrated by how you are bowling, it can cloud your judgement and cause you to make bad decisions.  It can also inadvertently alter your game by increasing ball speed and other aspects that are typically things you usually don't think about.  This will just make things worse.  I was pretty frustrated with how things were going in the second game and into the third, and my score shows it.  I essentially cost myself a pretty decent 600 series because my frustration was blinding me to the real problem, which was my arm swing and release.

The third thing is to not be afraid to try something drastic to break yourself of a problem, especially during a game that is essentially lost.  In the third game I realized that I was the problem and not the lane, and struggled through most of the game trying to figure out how to consistently hit my target.  In the tenth frame I decided to hold the ball further to the right of my body at the start of my approach, allowing me to drop the ball straight down and back.  This minimized the movement of my arm and the ball and provided for a straight line to my mark.  I usually hold the ball to the right, but a little closer to my body, so my push off is typically out and to the right slightly.  The change must have worked because I finished the game with a turkey.

Sometimes we just need to hit the reset button.  If things seem to be getting out of hand take a deep breath, talk a walk around the bowling center, and start over again.

How do you deal with a frustrating night at the alley?

September 13, 2011

Bowling in Pop Culture

While other sports may be more popular, bowling has enjoyed a ubiquitous presence in American popular culture. Bowling seems to be a common activity that all Americans can relate to, and so we find that some of our most beloved fictional characters in that last 50 years spend some time at the bowling alley. The Simpsons, The Honeymooners, The Drew Carey Show, All in the Family, Home Improvement, Bones, The Flintstones, and Ed, to name a few television shows, all had at least one episode that focused on bowling. Bowling for Dollars, Celebrity Bowling and Rock and Jock Bowling also took to the lanes for viewers' pleasure.

Here are some of the most famous, and my personal favorite, fictional bowlers:

Homer Simpson
There are several episodes of the Simpsons that revolve around bowling. Homer gives Marge a bowling ball as a birthday present. Homer convinces Mr. Burns to fund a bowling team. Homer achieves his dream job as a pin monkey. Homer is even lucky enough to throw a 300, as is his infant daughter Maggie (D'oh!). For better or for worse, Homer Simpson has been identified as the one character that people around the world think of when they picture an American, so I think it is only appropriate that he is a bowler.

Fred Flintstone
The original bowler, Fred Flintstone brought his twinkle-toes style approach into the living rooms of millions. My dad actually slightly resembles Fred's bowling technique, which I suppose is an example of life imitating art.

Big Ern McCraken
As for a bowling bad guy, I don't think anyone can top Big Ern from Kingpin. Brought to life by Bill Murray and the best comb-over of all time, Big Ern was responsible for Roy losing his hand as a result of a hustle gone bad and Ishmael breaking his hand after failing to connect a punch to his head. When Roy and Big Ern meet in a head to head match, Ern overcomes Roy's 7-10 split conversion by striking out to win the tournament.

The Dude
The movie The Big Lebowski features a lot of great bowler characters, but in the end you have to like the Dude. While I appreciate Walter's adherence to bowling etiquette and rules, you have to admire El Duderino's awesome bowling themed dream. Besides, the movie has one of the best quotes of all time, which nicely sums up what this blog is all about: "F' it, Dude. Let's go bowling."

Who is your favorite bowling character?